By Emery Sanderson
In 1913 “All Saint’s Anglican Church” was built overlooking the junction of Shawnigan Lake and Renfrew Roads. For 25 years the congregation of “All Saints” climbed an extremely steep hill to reach their church. Then in 1938 the church was sawed in half, saw marks can still be seen in the flooring, and moved.
In its new location, on the corner of Wilmot and Walbank, it continued to serve as the Anglican church until December 31, 1976, when its edifice was de-consecrated. The building received a new lease on life, when in the late 1970’s it was sold.
The new owner, Nancy and Frank Roseborough, (established ophthalmologists [eye doctors]), lovingly renovated an old church to create the very successful Auld Kirk Gallery.
Originally intended to display art from any interested local, they could’ve hardly predicted the monumental exhibitions from some of Vancouver Island’s and Canada’s most renowned artists in the years to come.
In the years following the opening, the gallery was still getting established and finding its place within the community. It wasn't until the 1990's that the gallery settled in its place and figured out what it wanted to be.
The gallery welcomed in the 1990s with a large show headlined by well-respected poet and Cowichan Valley citizen Jack Fleetwood. To go along with more significant exhibitions, the Shawnigan Artists Group was created to further develop the art sphere of Shawnigan in 1990.
Quietly working away just down the hill from Auld Kirk lived one of Canada’s foremost landscape painters, E.J. Hughes. Not one to relish in the attention that his reputation brought him, Hughes didn’t partake in showing his work locally at first. Other than his reserved personality, there were logistical problems as well. By contract, all of Hughes’ paintings went straight to the Dominion Gallery in Montreal.
It wasn’t until the mid-90s that Mrs Pat Salmon encouraged Hughes to participate in local exhibitions. By the summer of 1995, Robert Amos reported that "Roseborough was kind enough to bring out every E.J. Hughes watercolour and drawing on the premises.”
To have Hughes take part in this small, local gallery was, of course, a huge deal for Nancy, Frank, and Shawnigan as a whole. This first exhibition featuring Hughes only marked the beginning of their relationship. Until Hughes' death, he worked closely with Nancy to continue showing and selling work within Shawnigan.
At one opening of Hughes’ work that he attended, he left a notation in the guestbook to the effect that the artist could use some work…
With the attention Hughes’ paintings brought, more guests and more artists were attracted to the area. An example was the wonderful Pat Martin Bates of Victoria. Bates, a multifaceted artist, printmaker, educator, and a member of the Victoria Limners Society, was another frequent contributor to the Auld Kirk, holding various solo and group exhibitions.
Together with many other local artists, such as Nancy Robson, Dorothy Oxborough, Sarah Amos and Robert Amos (with countless others), the Auld Kirk Gallery was at its zenith for well over 20 years, throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
After a great run, Nancy and Frank decided to sell the gallery to Pam Geddes Skelding in 2006, and soon after, the late-great E.J. Hughes passed away in 2007. Sometime between 2007 and 2010, the Auld Kirk shut its doors for the last time to return to its original state, a quiet, forgotten church on the hill overlooking Shawnigan Village. The building is now a private residence.
The Church/Gallery is now a private dwelling.